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WCSU Projects Open Windows On 19th-Century Danbury

WCSU Adjunct Librarian Roseanne Shea and her husband, Gerald, help scan more than 2,600 pages of 19th century documents available at WCSU in Danbury.
WCSU Adjunct Librarian Roseanne Shea and her husband, Gerald, help scan more than 2,600 pages of 19th century documents available at WCSU in Danbury. Photo Credit: Courtesy Western Connecticut State University

DANBURY, Conn. -- Patrons at the Archives of the Western Connecticut State University Libraries in Danbury are getting the chance to look more than 150 years into the past. 

Brian Stevens, WCSU archivist and special collections librarian, has received extensive assistance over the past year from Adjunct Librarian Roseanne Shea and her husband, Gerald, in scanning and transcription required to make original 19th century source materials available online to researchers.

The Sheas, who live in Danbury, have committed many hours to completing the scanning of approximately 2,600 pages from six ledgers providing the official records of charter revisions, Board of Burgesses meetings and other documents related to the borough government of Danbury in the latter half of the 19th century.

The Sheas are continuing work on a separate project to transcribe the diaries of Horace Purdy, written during his employment in the finishing shop of a Danbury hat maker. Purdy’s diaries "offer rich detail portraying the daily life of a Danbury family during the 1860s, representatives said. 

Stevens discovered that the ledgers, dating back well over a century, were in a physical condition too fragile to bear frequent handling without suffering significant damage, representatives said. 

“I realized that it would be great if we could scan the ledgers because it would be the best way to preserve the documents and make them available online for research use,” Stevens said. 

That goal was realized when Roseanne and Jerry Shea agreed to take a WCSU scanner to the Danbury Public Library to begin the scanning pages from the six borough government ledgers. 

“To scan them physically, you have to pick up the ledger, place it on the scanner, complete the scan, turn the page, and do it all over, again and again,” Stevens said. 

“This has been a fantastic experience,” Roseanne Shea said. “We’re happy to help in making these records available, and we’re learning a lot about Danbury history in the process.”

Scanned documents from the Danbury borough ledger project may be accessed online through the WCSU website. 

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